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GSN Risk Grade: D↓4 Recent developments Election results: The Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) cemented its position as the main Kurdish political force at the 10 October general election, winning 33 seats, up from 25 in 2018.

Iraq
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Arab/Islamic and other financial institutions Low spreads for Apicorp bond: The Dammam-based Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (Apicorp) in February raised a $750m bond, which despite record low spreads and yield was 2.5-times over-subscribed.

Saudi Arabia | Iraq | United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Regional institutions and developments Arab League: The UAE has called for Syria to be brought back into the League of Arab  States, a decade on from the start of the civil war which has ravaged the country and led to the Assad regime’s suspension from the pan-Arab body in November 2011.

Iran | Kuwait | Oman | United Arab Emirates (UAE) | Qatar
Issue 1120 - 18 February 2021

UAE: Sharjah downgraded, Air traffic slumps

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Risk Management Report – GSN Risk Grade – Abu Dhabi A1, Dubai A2↓ Overview Politics: At the top of each emirate are the rulers’ courts and their crown princes. In practice, only the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai make unilateral decisions and issue emiri decrees; most of the smaller emirates use legislation crafted at federal level.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Risk Management Report – GSN Risk Grade – A1 Overview Politics: Established in 1971, the federation of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al-Quwain is economically liberal and progressive, but remains politically conservative.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
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Nuclear visit: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) secretary-general Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Iran on 24 August to discuss outstanding questions related to nuclear safeguards. After what was described in a joint statement as “intensive bilateral consultations”, Iran agreed to give IAEA inspectors access to two sites thought to have been used for covert nuclear activities – one near Karaj to the west of Tehran and another near Isfahan in the centre – and to facilitate the UN agency’s verification activities.

Iran
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Fiscal squeeze: The government deficit increased by 98% in H1 2020 compared to the same period last year, as a result of the slump in oil prices and the coronavirus lockdown. Revenues fell 29% year-on-year to BD910m ($2.4bn) while expenditure was up 2% to BD1.7bn, leading to a deficit of BD798m.

Bahrain
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IsDB mobilises $2.3bn Covid-19 package: The Islamic Development Bank Group has put together a $2.3bn Strategic Preparedness and Response Programme for Covid-19, under its “3Rs approach [of] respond, restore and restart”. $1.52bn will be funded from the Jeddah-based IsDB's ordinary capital resources, mainly from a reallocation of committed resources to mitigate Covid-related risks in the 47 OIC member economies.

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Parliament returns: The National Assembly will begin its next session on 16 June. The first item on the agenda will be a report about the government’s preparations for the Covid-19 pandemic – there has been criticism and unease in Kuwait about some aspects of the state’s response to the crisis, including the position of expatriate workers and the effectiveness of curfew measures.

Kuwait
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Politics: Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq Bin Taimur Al-Said was named ruler in January 2020, succeeding the late Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said as the 15th ruler of the Al-Busaidi dynasty (founded in 1750). Qaboos was a monumental figure who, having deposed his father in 1970, had led Oman since 1970. The succession process was quick and smooth, orchestrated via the Royal Family Council. Haitham has moved cautiously in the opening period of his rule, broadly following his predecessor’s domestic and regional policies.

Oman
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Economic dangers: KRG officials have told their United States counterparts they are concerned the region’s economy “is close to collapsing,” according to the latest Operation Inherent Resolve quarterly report covering Q1 2020. The economy is suffering from a collapse in oil revenues as well as the impact of the coronavirus lockdown. The KRG’s Q1 income from oil exports was expected to average $63m a month, down from $300m-350m/month last year.

Iraq
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Coronavirus security impact: The Covid-19 pandemic has undermined the military campaign of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led campaign against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. Training for Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) has been put on hold and some foreign forces were withdrawn. Among those to confirm redeployments were Australia, France and Portugal. The activities of the Combined Joint Task Force have also been hampered by attacks from Iranian-backed militia, according to the US State Department, Defense Department and US Agency for International Development’s latest quarterly report on Operation Inherent Resolve, covering Q1 2020.

Iraq
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Politics: Iran was declared an Islamic Republic in 1979, following the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Supreme Leader (Rahbar) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sits at the top of the velayat-e faqih system, his power (in theory) checked by an elected president and parliament. The conflict between theocracy and democracy dictates much of the internal dynamic. President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June 2013, following the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, proved a transitional moment for external relations.

Iran
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Politics: The Al-Khalifas came to power in 1783, driving the Persian empire from the archipelago. The British empire entered into an alliance with the Al-Khalifa 200 years ago; only in 1971 did Bahrain declare independence. The constitution provided for an elected parliament, which was formed in 1973 but disbanded in 1975 after a period of repressive rule; a partially elected body was reinstated in 2002. However, power lies primarily with the executive, controlled by the Sunni Al-Khalifas, who rule over a majority Shia population.

Bahrain
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Aviation slump: The Arab Air Carriers’ Organisation (AACO), which represents airlines in the region, has called on governments to provide tax relief to airlines for at least two years and provide speedy financial support packages in light of the coronavirus crisis which has led to fleets being largely grounded amid travel bans and border closures. AACO says that more than 150,000 families across the region depend on the sector for their livelihood. It also wants governments to suspend slot usage rules at airports and exempt airlines from passenger rights regulations on a temporary basis, among other measures. AACO estimates that regional airlines lost some $8bn in revenue in the first quarter of this year as a result of the crisis.